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[转载]格林斯潘这个金本位的信徒,最终用美国作为反面

(2011-01-13 17:27:38)
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分类: 黄金和金矿投资

推荐原因: 格林斯潘这个用滥发货币过度的货币流动性政策重挫美国经济的联署局主席,在45年前他的一篇文章中,极力地捍卫金本位制,按照他的观点世界上没有任何一个经济体的政府能够抵御通过滥发货币来推卸所遇到的问题的诱惑。“当抛弃了金本位制后,面对着以通货膨胀的形式进行的“储蓄充公”,我们束手无策。安全的价值储藏已不复存在。”

 

黄金与自由经济
    格林斯潘 1966年


  歇斯底里地来反对金本位制度,几乎把持有不同观点的统计学者们联合在一起的观点。虽然他们看起来是明白——可能比起那些一味崇尚“自由放任经济”的人看得更为清楚和仔细点——黄金和自由的经济是分不开的,两者互依互存,换句话说,金本位是实现“自由放任经济”的手段。


  为了弄清楚这些统计学者抵制金本位制的原因,有必要先来认识黄金在一个自由社会中所扮演的特殊角色。


  货币是进行所有经济交易的前提,它是一种能被交易参与者普遍接受的用来在交换经济体中对他们的商品或服务进行支付的,起到交换媒介的一种物品;因此,它被用作是市场价值和储藏价值的一个标准,比如,我们可以用它来进行储蓄。


  这种物品(指货币)的存在是经济体进行劳动分工的前提。如果,人类没能拥有象货币那样能反映出商品客观价值并被普遍接受的物品,那么他们将要重新回到原始的物物交换或者被迫进行自给自足的社会中,因为这样将无法衡量专业化生产的种种优点。其次,要是人类没有办法储存价值(比如储蓄),那么我们既不能进行长期地计划,也无法使得交换成为可能。


  那么,怎么样的交换中介才能被一个经济体内的所有成员所接纳呢?这并非是什么武断的决定,首先,被选中的交换中介得是耐用的。在原始社会中,小麦可能是种足够耐用的物品,而被选中做为交换中介,因为所有的交易只会发生在收获季节里的一个相当短暂的时间里,基本上没有“价值盈余”可供储存。但是,当价值储存变得相当重要时,在那些人民更富裕,更文明的社会里,交换的中介必须是种更为耐用的物品,通常金属会被选中。之所以会选中一种金属来作为媒介物,是因为金属的质地比较均匀并且容易分割:每一个(被分割出来)的部分跟其他部分的质地都是相同的,另外,金属还可以被任意地熔炼在一起或分割成任何数量的规则形状。举个例子来说,那些珍贵的珠宝就既不能做到质地均匀又难以进行(任意)分割。更重要的是,被选种作为交换媒介的物品还必须是奢侈品。人类对奢侈品的占有欲是无限止的,因此能永远都有对奢侈品的需求并接受之。小麦在没有解决温饱的文明体系中是种奢侈品(所以能被接受成为媒介),但在现代繁荣的社会中却远称不上奢侈。香烟,在当今是如此得普通以至于不可能被当作货币来使用,但二战刚结束的那会儿,在欧洲,它绝对算得上是一种奢侈品,并可以被用来交换其他商品。“奢侈品”这个术语,意味着那些稀缺的或单位价值高昂的物品。单位价值高(的商品),就是轻便的商品,举个例子,一盎司的黄金就价值半吨的生铁。

 

在货币经济的早期发展阶段,存在着各式各样的交换媒介,这是因为有非常多的物品符合我们前面所说的(成为交换媒介的)条件。然而,最终只会有一种被人们更为广泛地接受的物品,逐渐取代了其他的物品。对于持有何种物品来达到价值贮藏的目的,因为偏好的因素,(人们)最终把他们的选择移向能为最广泛的人所接受的物品上。当然,这也使得某种物品被越来越多的人所接受。这种移动会一直进行到只剩下唯一的交换媒介为止。这种对单一交换媒介的使用,就象货币社会之所以比物物交换的原始社会更为进步的原因一样,是相当有利的:因为这使交换可以在不可胜数的大规模情况下得以进行。


  当有黄金、白银、海贝、牲畜以及烟叶等可供选择的物品来当作交换媒介时,一个经济体只得视其历史及发展状况来选择。事实上,上述的这些物品都曾在不同的时期里被当作交换媒介使用过。即便到了本世纪(指20世纪),黄金和白银这两样主要的物品还一直被当作国际上通用的交换媒介,其中黄金更是成为能起到(货币)支配作用的(交换媒介)。黄金兼具美感和功能作用,以及(更为重要的)相对稀缺的属性使其具有相当优越的条件来成为交换媒介。从第一次世界大战初开始,它已经成为了事实上的国际交换标准。但是如果所有的商品及服务都依靠黄金来支付,那么这种支付手段将难以执行,这将会限制社会劳动分工和专业化生产的扩大。因此,银行系统开始大肆发展交换媒介的衍生物,以及信用制度的创立(银行票证及保证金),并以此作为黄金的一种可自由兑换的替换品。


  一个建立在黄金(储备)之上的自由银行系统是可以根据经济体的生产要求,来发行银行票证(现金货币)和保证金来达到扩展信用(规模)的。他们以支付利息的方式来吸引黄金持有者把他们手头上的黄金存进银行里(需要时他们可以签出支票)。但是,因为所有的存款人在同一时间里提取他们的黄金的情况很少发生,所以银行只需留有很小一小部分的黄金储备。这使得银行能够贷出比他们所持有的黄金储备更多的(货币)——这意味着银行所声称的黄金储量较之事实上所持有的要多得多。所幸的是,银行对贷款量始终不是进行武断控制的,他是通过衡量其(黄金)储备量和他的投资状况来作出决定的。


  当银行贷款为生产融资,努力地带来收益,并且贷款能及时归时,银行的的信用将被持续下去。但是一旦银行为极具商业风险的项目融资,导致利润下滑甚至无法及时归还贷款,银行会很快发现他们的贷款总额相对于他们的黄金储备量已显著过量,因此将用提高利率的方法来减少新贷款。这将使银行限制新的贷款,并要求现在的借款者,在他们得到为未来扩张所需要的信用之前,提高他们的赢利能力。从而,使得在金本位制度下,银行系统成为经济体的保护者,使其能稳定且平衡地增长。当黄金被大多数甚至所有国家都接受的时候,一个畅通无阻的自由国际金本位制度就能培养出一个在世界范围内的劳动分工以及最大范围的国际贸易。即使货币单位因国而异(英镑、美圆、法郎等等),只要用黄金来衡量不同的货币,那么不同的经济体终将成为一个整体,对贸易或者资本的流动,都将毫无阻碍。信用,利率,以及价格在所有的国家中都将趋于相似。举个例子来说,如果一个国家的银行总是不受限制地进行信用扩张,那么那个国家的利率水平自然会下降,而这将诱使黄金储户就会把他们的黄金放到利率水平更高的其他国家的银行里去。这将迅速在“容易获得货币”的国家内造成银行的储备短缺,从而施行信用紧缩制度以使利率回复到具有竞争力的较高水平。

 

从来都没有一个充分自由的银行系统以及始终坚持的金本位制存在过。但是在一次世界大战前,美国(以及世界上大多数国家)的银行是建立在黄金(储备)之上的,即使政府偶尔会干涉进来,银行还是并未受到太大的控制。于是,周期性地,由于银行过快地进行信用扩张,银行的贷款额度超出了他们的黄金储备,利率随之上升,新的信贷被停止,经济开始下滑,导致短暂的经济衰退。(与1920年和1932年的经济萧条相比,第一次世界大战前的经济下滑是相对缓和的)。有限的黄金储备,在第一次世界大战前的几次经济危机前,抑制了不平衡的商业扩张,以免受灾难之苦。经济体在经历了短暂的调整后,得到了恢复,并开始新的商业扩张。


  但是(对经济周期)的治疗手段却是对疾病的误诊:如果是银行储备的短缺而引起了经济衰退的话——政府干预经济学者争辩道——为什么不采用某些方法来提供更多的银行储备,以此来消除短缺呢?!如果银行要继续按照需求,随意地发放贷款,他们就要避免商业衰退。于是在1913年组建了联邦储备系统。该系统最初的12家联邦储备银行,在名义上全部都是私有的,但事实上是由政府资助,并且在背后控制和支持着。这些银行所扩张的信用(虽然并不合法)实际上是由联邦政府运用税收来作保证的。从技术上来说,我们仍然保留着金本位制:个人仍然可以自由地拥有黄金,黄金仍然被银行用来作为储备。但是现在,除了黄金以外,联邦储备银行用纸币(“票据储备”)来合法地支付给存款人,并以此进行信用扩张。


  当美国经济在忍受1927的紧缩时,联邦储备当局印制了更多的票据储备以期预防任何有可能出现的银行储备短缺问题。可是,更为严重的是,联邦储备银行试着去帮助黄金储备大量流失到我国的大不列颠帝国,因为当时英格兰银行(英国央行)拒绝按照市场行情而提高利率(政治因素)。比较权威的理由是:只要联邦储备银行把大量的票据储蓄到美国的银行里,那么美国的利率将会下降到跟英国相似的水平上;这将意味着英国可以避免由利率上升所带来的政治困窘,并达到防止黄金从英国流失的目的。联邦储备银行获得了成功;它阻止了黄金的流失,但却几乎毁掉了整个世界经济。联邦储备银行在经济体中创造的过量信用,被股票市场所吸收——从而刺激了投机行为并产生了一次荒谬的繁荣。联邦储备银行曾试图吸收那些多余的储备,希望能最终成功地压制投机带来的繁荣。但却太迟了:1929年投机所带来的不平衡压倒了联储的紧缩尝试,并导致商业信心的丧失。结果,美国经济崩溃了。英国的遭遇更加糟糕,比其先前荒唐的政策更为严重的是,她于1931年彻底地放弃了金本位制,使得由其纺织业所支撑的商业信心也被彻底破碎,并引起了世界范围内的一系列银行破产。世界经济在1930年代陷入了“大萧条”。

 

联想到一代人之前,统计学者们争辩到是由金本位制导致的信用崩溃触发了“大萧条”。如果不存在金本位制,1931年英国放弃用黄金作为支付手段是不会引起全世界银行的系统的崩溃,他们争辩道。(讽刺的是,如果1913年时我们没有采用金本位制,而是采用所谓的“混合金本位制”,那么今天黄金还是一样会受到他们的责备。)但是,任何一种持反对金本位制的观点——与日俱增的福利制度拥护者——都极其敏锐地认识到:金本位的实行是与长期赤字开支相矛盾的(长期的赤字开支是福利国家的通病)。撇开学术上的行话,福利制度只是个由政府对生产组织的财富进行充公,以此来保障一个大范围的福利计划而已。这种充公则大抵是靠税收来执行的。但是福利经济统计学者们很快就意识到了,如果还想保持他们的政权的话,那么必须控制税收的额度,为他们大量的赤字支出采取有效的规划,比如,他们必须依靠发行政府债券的方式来借钱为大量的福利制度进行融资。


  在金本位制度下,一个经济体的信用额度是可以依靠该经济体的有形资产来决定的,因为所有的信用工具,从根本上来说都是根据对有形资产的需求而启用的。但是政府债券的背后却没有有形资产的支撑,政府只是承诺用未来税收来兑现,并且无法轻易地为金融市场所接纳。新的大量的政府债券只能通过日益提高的利率来发售。这样,在金本位制下,政府的赤字开支是受到严格约束。放弃使用金本位制,使得福利经济统计学者们可以通过银行系统来进行不受限制的信用扩张。他们以政府债券的形式创造出票据储备——通过一系列复杂的步骤——以使银行象接受有形资产一样地接受它们,并当作已经有了实际储备一样。政府债券或者银行票据抵押的持有者相信,他对真实资产是有索取权的。但目前的情况是这种索取的数目是远远大于真实资产的数目的。供求原理是无法违背的:当货币的(索取权的)供应相对于有形资产的供应增多时,那么(这些资产的)价格必将攀升,从而使得生产者们的储蓄(货币)价值相对于商品来说是下降了。当该经济体的帐本终于平衡起来的时候,人们会发现因为政府出于实行福利政策或其他目的的收入而以发行政府债券的方法所造成的银行信用扩张,最终导致了货币的购买能力下降。

 

当抛弃了金本位制后,面对着以通货膨胀的形式进行的“储蓄充公”,我们束手无策。安全的价值储藏已不复存在。如果有,政府将使它成为不合法的储存,就象过去对待黄金那样。当有人决定把他的银行抵押全部兑换成白银或铜或其他商品,并从此不再接受银行的商品支票时,银行的储备将失去它们的购买能力,由政府所创造的银行信用也将因为(人们)要求实现他们对商品的索取权而变得毫无价值可言。福利国家的财经政策要求剥夺财产所有者对自己(财产)的保护权。


  这是掩藏在福利经济统制者们反对金本位制的演说中的卑劣秘密。财政赤字的支出,是充公(生产者)财产的一种简单的制度安排。金本位是(天生)针对这种阴险的制度的。它充当着产权保护者的角色。如果人们领会了这一点,那么也就不难理解那些统计学者们(福利经济统制者)对金本位制的抵制了。

 

 

Gold and Economic Freedom

Greenspan, 1966

 

An almost hysterical antagonism toward the gold standard is one issue which unites statists of all persuasions. They seem to sense – perhaps more clearly and subtly than many consistent defenders of laissez-faire – that gold and economic freedom are inseparable, that the gold standard is an instrument of laissez-faire and that each implies and requires the other.

 

In order to understand the source of their antagonism, it is necessary first to understand the specific role of gold in a free society.

 

Money is the common denominator of all economic transactions. It is that commodity which serves as a medium of exchange, is universally acceptable to all participants in an exchange economy as payment for their goods or services, and can, therefore, be used as a standard of market value and as a store of value, i.e., as a means of saving.

 

The existence of such a commodity is a precondition of a division of labor economy. If men did not have some commodity of objective value which was generally acceptable as money, they would have to resort to primitive barter or be forced to live on self-sufficient farms and forgo the inestimable advantages of specialization. If men had no means to store value, i.e., to save, neither long-range planning nor exchange would be possible.

 

What medium of exchange will be acceptable to all participants in an economy is not determined arbitrarily. First, the medium of exchange should be durable. In a primitive society of meager wealth, wheat might be sufficiently durable to serve as a medium, since all exchanges would occur only during and immediately after the harvest, leaving no value-surplus to store. But where store-of-value considerations are important, as they are in richer, more civilized societies, the medium of exchange must be a durable commodity, usually a metal. A metal is generally chosen because it is homogeneous and divisible: every unit is the same as every other and it can be blended or formed in any quantity. Precious jewels, for example, are neither homogeneous nor divisible. More important, the commodity chosen as a medium must be a luxury. Human desires for luxuries are unlimited and, therefore, luxury goods are always in demand and will always be acceptable. Wheat is a luxury in underfed civilizations, but not in a prosperous society. Cigarettes ordinarily would not serve as money, but they did in post-World War II Europe where they were considered a luxury. The term "luxury good" implies scarcity and high unit value. Having a high unit value, such a good is easily portable; for instance, an ounce of gold is worth a half-ton of pig iron.

 

In the early stages of a developing money economy, several media of exchange might be used, since a wide variety of commodities would fulfill the foregoing conditions. However, one of the commodities will gradually displace all others, by being more widely acceptable. Preferences on what to hold as a store of value, will shift to the most widely acceptable commodity, which, in turn, will make it still more acceptable. The shift is progressive until that commodity becomes the sole medium of exchange. The use of a single medium is highly advantageous for the same reasons that a money economy is superior to a barter economy: it makes exchanges possible on an incalculably wider scale.

 

Whether the single medium is gold, silver, seashells, cattle, or tobacco is optional, depending on the context and development of a given economy. In fact, all have been employed, at various times, as media of exchange. Even in the present century, two major commodities, gold and silver, have been used as international media of exchange, with gold becoming the predominant one. Gold, having both artistic and functional uses and being relatively scarce, has significant advantages over all other media of exchange. Since the beginning of World War I, it has been virtually the sole international standard of exchange. If all goods and services were to be paid for in gold, large payments would be difficult to execute and this would tend to limit the extent of a society's divisions of labor and specialization. Thus a logical extension of the creation of a medium of exchange is the development of a banking system and credit instruments (bank notes and deposits) which act as a substitute for, but are convertible into, gold.

 

A free banking system based on gold is able to extend credit and thus to create bank notes (currency) and deposits, according to the production requirements of the economy. Individual owners of gold are induced, by payments of interest, to deposit their gold in a bank (against which they can draw checks). But since it is rarely the case that all depositors want to withdraw all their gold at the same time, the banker need keep only a fraction of his total deposits in gold as reserves. This enables the banker to loan out more than the amount of his gold deposits (which means that he holds claims to gold rather than gold as security of his deposits). But the amount of loans which he can afford to make is not arbitrary: he has to gauge it in relation to his reserves and to the status of his investments.

 

When banks loan money to finance productive and profitable endeavors, the loans are paid off rapidly and bank credit continues to be generally available. But when the business ventures financed by bank credit are less profitable and slow to pay off, bankers soon find that their loans outstanding are excessive relative to their gold reserves, and they begin to curtail new lending, usually by charging higher interest rates. This tends to restrict the financing of new ventures and requires the existing borrowers to improve their profitability before they can obtain credit for further expansion. Thus, under the gold standard, a free banking system stands as the protector of an economy's stability and balanced growth. When gold is accepted as the medium of exchange by most or all nations, an unhampered free international gold standard serves to foster a world-wide division of labor and the broadest international trade. Even though the units of exchange (the dollar, the pound, the franc, etc.) differ from country to country, when all are defined in terms of gold the economies of the different countries act as one-so long as there are no restraints on trade or on the movement of capital. Credit, interest rates, and prices tend to follow similar patterns in all countries. For example, if banks in one country extend credit too liberally, interest rates in that country will tend to fall, inducing depositors to shift their gold to higher-interest paying banks in other countries. This will immediately cause a shortage of bank reserves in the "easy money" country, inducing tighter credit standards and a return to competitively higher interest rates again.

 

A fully free banking system and fully consistent gold standard have not as yet been achieved. But prior to World War I, the banking system in the United States (and in most of the world) was based on gold and even though governments intervened occasionally, banking was more free than controlled. Periodically, as a result of overly rapid credit expansion, banks became loaned up to the limit of their gold reserves, interest rates rose sharply, new credit was cut off, and the economy went into a sharp, but short-lived recession. (Compared with the depressions of 1920 and 1932, the pre-World War I business declines were mild indeed.) It was limited gold reserves that stopped the unbalanced expansions of business activity, before they could develop into the post-World Was I type of disaster. The readjustment periods were short and the economies quickly reestablished a sound basis to resume expansion.

 

But the process of cure was misdiagnosed as the disease: if shortage of bank reserves was causing a business decline – argued economic interventionists – why not find a way of supplying increased reserves to the banks so they never need be short! If banks can continue to loan money indefinitely-it was claimed-there need never be any slumps in business. And so the Federal Reserve System was organized in 1913. It consisted of twelve regional Federal Reserve banks nominally owned by private bankers, but in fact government sponsored, controlled, and supported. Credit extended by these banks is in practice (though not legally) backed by the taxing power of the federal government. Technically, we remained on the gold standard; individuals were still free to own gold, and gold continued to be used as bank reserves. But now, in addition to gold, credit extended by the Federal Reserve banks ("paper reserves") could serve as legal tender to pay depositors.

 

When business in the United States underwent a mild contraction in 1927, the Federal Reserve created more paper reserves in the hope of forestalling any possible bank reserve shortage. More disastrous, however, was the Federal Reserve's attempt to assist Great Britain who had been losing gold to us because the Bank of England refused to allow interest rates to rise when market forces dictated (it was politically unpalatable). The reasoning of the authorities involved was as follows: if the Federal Reserve pumped excessive paper reserves into American banks, interest rates in the United States would fall to a level comparable with those in Great Britain; this would act to stop Britain's gold loss and avoid the political embarrassment of having to raise interest rates. The "Fed" succeeded; it stopped the gold loss, but it nearly destroyed the economies of the world, in the process. The excess credit which the Fed pumped into the economy spilled over into the stock market-triggering a fantastic speculative boom. Belatedly, Federal Reserve officials attempted to sop up the excess reserves and finally succeeded in braking the boom. But it was too late: by 1929 the speculative imbalances had become so overwhelming that the attempt precipitated a sharp retrenching and a consequent demoralizing of business confidence. As a result, the American economy collapsed. Great Britain fared even worse, and rather than absorb the full consequences of her previous folly, she abandoned the gold standard completely in 1931, tearing asunder what remained of the fabric of confidence and inducing a world-wide series of bank failures. The world economies plunged into the Great Depression of the 1930's.

 

With a logic reminiscent of a generation earlier, statists argued that the gold standard was largely to blame for the credit debacle which led to the Great Depression. If the gold standard had not existed, they argued, Britain's abandonment of gold payments in 1931 would not have caused the failure of banks all over the world. (The irony was that since 1913, we had been, not on a gold standard, but on what may be termed "a mixed gold standard"; yet it is gold that took the blame.) But the opposition to the gold standard in any form-from a growing number of welfare-state advocates-was prompted by a much subtler insight: the realization that the gold standard is incompatible with chronic deficit spending (the hallmark of the welfare state). Stripped of its academic jargon, the welfare state is nothing more than a mechanism by which governments confiscate the wealth of the productive members of a society to support a wide variety of welfare schemes. A substantial part of the confiscation is effected by taxation. But the welfare statists were quick to recognize that if they wished to retain political power, the amount of taxation had to be limited and they had to resort to programs of massive deficit spending, i.e., they had to borrow money, by issuing government bonds, to finance welfare expenditures on a large scale.

 

Under a gold standard, the amount of credit that an economy can support is determined by the economy's tangible assets, since every credit instrument is ultimately a claim on some tangible asset. But government bonds are not backed by tangible wealth, only by the government's promise to pay out of future tax revenues, and cannot easily be absorbed by the financial markets. A large volume of new government bonds can be sold to the public only at progressively higher interest rates. Thus, government deficit spending under a gold standard is severely limited. The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit. They have created paper reserves in the form of government bonds which-through a complex series of steps-the banks accept in place of tangible assets and treat as if they were an actual deposit, i.e., as the equivalent of what was formerly a deposit of gold. The holder of a government bond or of a bank deposit created by paper reserves believes that he has a valid claim on a real asset. But the fact is that there are now more claims outstanding than real assets. The law of supply and demand is not to be conned. As the supply of money (of claims) increases relative to the supply of tangible assets in the economy, prices must eventually rise. Thus the earnings saved by the productive members of the society lose value in terms of goods. When the economy's books are finally balanced, one finds that this loss in value represents the goods purchased by the government for welfare or other purposes with the money proceeds of the government bonds financed by bank credit expansion.

 

In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, the government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold. If everyone decided, for example, to convert all his bank deposits to silver or copper or any other good, and thereafter declined to accept checks as payment for goods, bank deposits would lose their purchasing power and government-created bank credit would be worthless as a claim on goods. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves.

 

This is the shabby secret of the welfare statists' tirades against gold. Deficit spending is simply a scheme for the confiscation of wealth. Gold stands in the way of this insidious process. It stands as a protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in understanding the statists' antagonism toward the gold standard.

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